The spiritual practice of fasting seems to be largely ignored or forgotten my much of my generation. Click here for a reminder. I’ve fasted a number of times in my life, mostly for three days but occasionally for five days. My fasts have always been painful but the purpose is to redirect one’s focus – when you feel a hunger pang you can make a mental shift from the hunger to God or consciousness or whatever you want to call it.
Hunger strikes have been used by individuals and groups as non-violent political protest for many years – in a few extreme cases people have fasted to death. The current record is ten years of fasting by Irom Chanu Sharmilla. She has even been charged with “attempted suicide.” This strikes me as a direct parallel to self-immolation as protest.
And now I’ve learned about a current hunger strike in six separate California prisons. The prisoners are protesting their treatment – this is from the Common Dreams article:
“Dozens of U.S.-based and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions. SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran, California Correctional Institution (CCI), Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) as well as Pelican Bay.
As of Tuesday morning, advocates had confirmed hunger strike participants at Corcoran and CCI, as well as Folsom, Centinela, and Calipatria State Prisons. Despite the Hunger Strike spreading, the CDCR claimed in an LA Times article this past weekend that less than two dozen prisoners were on hunger strike.” link
If this spreads to other prisons then we may be well on the road to some real prison reform. I’ve also heard it said that if there is a resistance to our American imperial powers growing, then the prisons are likely the front lines. This may be a radical perspective but I hope it’s true.
I’ll be fasting the next few days in solidarity. Hopefully you’ll join me.